Hong Kong’s tap water has been a heated topic of discussion for decades. Is the water safe to drink now? The answer is yes. However, current residents can remember a time when their concerns about the water were valid.
Hong Kong adopted the World Health Organization’s water standards in 2017. Before then, citizens were either boiling their water first or drinking bottled water. Many residents continue these practices out of an abundance of caution.
Hong Kong Water Quality Report: What Is in the Water?
Hong Kong’s Water Supplies Department manages the city’s tap water system. The Hong Kong Drinking Water Standards or HKDWS are the guidelines the city follows to maintain the necessary water standards.
WHO provided these guidelines in 2017, and they contain 60 parameters by which Hong Kong must monitor and examine the water regularly.
The most interesting point about Hong Kong’s tap water is not what is in it but what’s not in it. According to a 2021 report by the Water Supplies Department, Hong Kong’s tap water passes all inspections. Levels of any contaminants are undetectable according to WHO standards.
Is The Water Hard or Soft?
Hong Kong’s tap water is soft. The water is clear and contains only trace amounts of minerals. The Water Supplies Division follows strict Aesthetic Guidelines to ensure the soft water quality is acceptable for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and even for aquariums.
Where Does Hong Kong Get its Water?
Hong Kong gets its water from two sources. A majority of the city’s water is imported from Dongjiang in the Guangdong Province of China. Hong Kong has imported its water from Guangdong since 1965 and continues to import up to 80% of its supply from there.
Due to Hong Kong’s lack of natural lakes to use as a source, the relationship between Guangdong and Hong Kong is essential to the clean water supply in Hong Kong.
The Pearl River in DongJiang supplies water to more than 40 million people across China. In Hong Kong, the water is received at the Muk Wu Raw Water Pumping Station before it is transferred for treatment or stored for later use.
The remainder of Hong Kong’s drinking water is collected via rainwater collection points in reservoirs around Hong Kong. One-third of the city’s area is specifically devoted to rainwater collection. Rainfall in Hong Kong is too little to rely on as a main water source, but the rainwater the city can collect is still very valuable.
Once collected, all water from both rainfall and importation is then treated according to the World Health Organization’s HKDWS guidelines.
How Is Tap Water Treated in Hong Kong?
The tap water treatment system in Hong Kong is an intricate process with multiple steps and tests for safety along the way. There are currently 20 different treatment facilities, all monitoring the water supply along its route to the taps of citizens. The treatment system rivals most first-world cities across the world.
Rainwater from Dongjiang and catchwater from rainfall are all treated the same once received at a Hong Kong water treatment facility. The full process of cleaning the water before distribution comprises four steps: pre-treatment, clarification, filtration, and disinfection.
First, the raw water is pre-treated with chemicals. These chemicals are alum, hydrated lime, electrolytes, potassium permanganate, and powdered activated carbon. In this first step, these chemicals work together to control pH, control algae growth, and remove any odors or foul tastes.
Next, the water is moved to clarification. Here, any large particles that have been coagulated by the previous chemicals become much easier to remove. The water goes through a sedimentation process to remove those minerals.
The third step of water treatment is filtration. Filtration involves allowing large unwanted particles to settle while the more fluid particles pass through a filter. The biological filtration process is highly scientific and involves converting chemicals already found in the water into nitrates for easy filtering.
The last step in water treatment is disinfection, chlorination, and fluoridation. Chlorine is added to clean the water, and fluoride is added for taste. Water then enters its distribution into taps in businesses and homes in Hong Kong.
Upon receiving water through the taps in homes and businesses, many residents still feel the need to boil their water as they have done in the past. This process is not necessary, and the added precaution is a personal choice.
Hong Kong residents have complained for decades that the piping systems by which the Water Supplies Department distributes water are still not clean enough to be trusted. The Water Supplies Department refutes this when it comes to water in residential areas, but the department does encourage businesses to play a more active role in ensuring their water lines are maintained and clean.
Does Hong Kong Have the Cleanest Tap Water?
Hong Kong’s tap water is among the cleanest tap water in the world. The World Health Organization sets the standard for most countries to maintain healthy water standards.
Since 2017, Hong Kong has followed these guidelines without fail. Hong Kong’s water treatment system utilizes state-of-the-art technology to ensure tap water for its citizens is safe for any activity.
The Hong Kong tap water supply is not only safe to drink but a standard from which many cities could learn. Since adopting the WHO’s HKDWS guidelines, Hong Kong has created a system that provides healthy water and an adequate supply to residents across the city.
To quell residents’ fears and ensure drinking water is safe, the Water Supplies Department must continue to enforce standards in every step of the process, from cleaning to distribution.